Just as there are a variety of technologies available in conventional vehicles, plug-in electric vehicles (also known as electric cars or EVs) have different capabilities that can accommodate different drivers’ needs. A major feature of EVs is that drivers can plug them in to charge from an off-board electric power source. This distinguishes them from hybrid electric vehicles, which supplement an internal combustion engine with battery power but cannot be plugged in.
There are two basic types of EVs: all-electric vehicles (AEVs) and plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs). AEVs include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs). In addition to charging from the electrical grid, both types are charged in part by regenerative braking, which generates electricity from some of the energy normally lost when braking. Which type of vehicle will fit your lifestyle depends on your needs and driving habits. Find out which BEVs and PHEVs are available to suit your needs.
All-electric vehicles (AEVs) run only on electricity. Most have all-electric ranges of around 300 miles. When the battery is depleted, it can take from 30 minutes (with fast charging) up to nearly a full day (with Level 1 charging) to recharge it, depending on the type of charger and battery.
If this range is not sufficient, a plug-in electric vehicle (PHEV) may be a better choice. PHEVs run on electricity for shorter ranges (6 to 40 miles), then switch over to an internal combustion engine running on gasoline when the battery is depleted. The flexibility of PHEVs allows drivers to use electricity as often as possible while also being able to fuel up with gasoline if needed.
Powering the vehicle with electricity from the grid reduces fuel costs, cuts petroleum consumption, and reduces tailpipe emissions compared with conventional vehicles. When driving distances are longer than the all-electric range, PHEVs act like hybrid electric vehicles, consuming less fuel and producing fewer emissions than similar conventional vehicles. Depending on the model, the internal combustion engine may also power the vehicle at other times, such as during rapid acceleration or when using heating or air conditioning. PHEVs could also use hydrogen in a fuel cell, biofuels, or other alternative fuels as a back-up instead of gasoline.
Types of EVs
- EVs (also known as plug-in electric vehicles) derive all or part of their power from electricity supplied by the electric grid. They include AEVs and PHEVs.
- AEVs (all-electric vehicles) are powered by one or more electric motors. They receive electricity by plugging into the grid and store it in batteries. They consume no petroleum-based fuel and produce no tailpipe emissions. AEVs include Battery Electric Vehicles (BEVs) and Fuel Cell Electric Vehicles (FCEVs).
- PHEVs (plug-in hybrid electric vehicles) use batteries to power an electric motor, plug into the electric grid to charge, and use a petroleum-based or alternative fuel to power the internal combustion engine. Some types of PHEVs are also called extended-range electric vehicles (EREVs).
Plug-in electric vehicles (also known as electric cars or EVs) are connected, fun, and practical. They can reduce emissions and save you money.
Fueling with electricity offers some advantages not available in conventional internal combustion engine vehicles. Because electric motors react quickly, EVs are very responsive and have very good torque. EVs are often more digitally connected than conventional vehicles, with many EV charging stations providing the option to control charging from a smartphone app.
But EVs provide more than just individual benefits. EVs can help the United States have a greater diversity of fuel choices available for transportation. The U.S. used nearly nine billion barrels of petroleum last year, two-thirds of which went towards transportation. Our reliance on petroleum makes us vulnerable to price spikes and supply disruptions. EVs help reduce this threat because almost all U.S. electricity is produced from domestic sources, including coal, nuclear, natural gas, and renewable sources.
EVs can also reduce the emissions that contribute to climate change and smog, improving public health and reducing ecological damage. Charging your EV on renewable energy such as solar or wind minimizes these emissions even more. See the difference in emissions between a conventional vehicle and an EV using the calculator on the right. Learn more about how EVs reduce pollution and their lifecycle emissions.
Reducing Pollution with Electric Vehicles
Plug-in electric vehicles can help keep your town and your world clean. In general, EVs produce fewer emissions that contribute to climate change and smog than conventional vehicles.
There are two general categories of vehicle emissions: direct and life cycle.
Direct emissions are emitted through the tailpipe, through evaporation from the fuel system, and during the fueling process. Direct emissions include smog-forming pollutants (such as nitrogen oxides), other pollutants harmful to human health, and greenhouse gases (GHGs), primarily carbon dioxide. All-electric vehicles produce zero direct emissions, which specifically helps improve air quality in urban areas. Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs), which have a gasoline engine in addition to an electric motor, produce evaporative emissions from the fuel system as well as tailpipe emissions when operating on gasoline. However, because most PHEVs are more efficient than comparable conventional vehicles, they still produce fewer tailpipe emissions even when relying on gasoline.
Life cycle emissions include all emissions related to fuel and vehicle production, processing, distribution, use, and recycling/disposal. For example, for a conventional gasoline vehicle, emissions are produced when petroleum is extracted from the ground, refined to gasoline, distributed to stations, and burned in vehicles. Like direct emissions, life cycle emissions include a variety of harmful pollutants and GHGs.
All vehicles produce substantial life cycle emissions, and calculating them is complex.
However, EVs typically produce fewer life cycle emissions than conventional vehicles because most emissions are lower for electricity generation than burning gasoline or diesel. The exact amount of these emissions depends on your electricity mix, which varies by geographic location. While the U.S. national averages are above, look up your specific zip code’s electricity mix and EV emissionson the Alternative Fuels Data Center. EV drivers can further minimize their life cycle emissions by using electricity generated by non-polluting renewable sources like solar and wind.
Saving on Fuel and Vehicle Costs
Plug-in electric vehicles (also known as electric cars or EVs) can save you money, with much lower fuel costs on average than conventional gasoline vehicles.
Because the average U.S. household spends nearly one-fifth of its total family expenditures on transportation, saving on fuel can make a big difference in terms of the average family’s budget.
Electricity is less expensive than gasoline and EVs are more efficient than gasoline vehicles. Electricity prices are also generally much more stable than gasoline prices. On a national average, it costs less than half as much to travel the same distance in an EV than a conventional vehicle. In addition, some utilities offer even cheaper rates at night, which can further reduce your electricity costs.
While the operating costs of EVs are substantially lower, EVs can be more expensive to purchase than their conventional counterparts.
However, the federal government and a number of state governments offer tax credits and other incentives to EV buyers that can lower the up-front cost.
All of these costs vary depend on your geographic region and driving habits. In general, drivers who drive a high number of miles on a daily basis will save more money.
The standard J1772 electric power receptacle can receive power from Level 1 or Level 2 charging equipment. The CHAdeMO DC fast charge receptacle uses a different type of connector.
To get the most out of your plug-in electric vehicle, you must charge it on a regular basis. Charging frequently maximizes the range of all-electric vehicles and the electric-only miles of plug-in hybrid electric vehicles. Drivers can charge at home, at work, or in public places. While most drivers do more than 80% of their charging at home and it is often the least expensive option, workplace and public charging can complement residential charging.
Types of Chargers
Charging your EV requires plugging into a charger connected to the electric grid, also called electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE). There are three major categories of chargers, based on the maximum amount of power the charger provides to the battery from the grid:
- Level 1: Provides charging through a 120 V AC plug and does not require installation of additional charging equipment. Can deliver 2 to 5 miles of range per hour of charging. Most often used in homes, but sometimes used at workplaces.
- Level 2: Provides charging through a 240 V (for residential) or 208 V (for commercial) plug and requires installation of additional charging equipment. Can deliver 10 to 20 miles of range per hour of charging. Used in homes, workplaces, and for public charging.
- DC Fast Charge: Provides charging through 480 V AC input and requires highly specialized, high-powered equipment as well as special equipment in the vehicle itself. (Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles typically do not have fast charging capabilities.) Can deliver 60 to 80 miles of range in 20 minutes of charging. Used most often in public charging stations, especially along heavy traffic corridors.
Charging times range from less than 30 minutes to 20 hours or more based on the type of EVSE, as well as the type of battery, how depleted it is, and its capacity. All-electric vehicles typically have more battery capacity than plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, so charging a fully depleted all-electric vehicle takes longer.
In addition to the three types above, wireless charging uses an electro-magnetic field to transfer electricity to an EV without a cord. The Department of Energy is supporting research to develop and improve wireless charging technology. Wireless chargers are available for use with certain vehicle models.
Types of Plugs
Most modern chargers and vehicles have a standard connector and receptacle, called the SAE J1772. Any vehicle with this plug receptacle can use any Level 1 or Level 2 EVSE. All major vehicle and charging system manufacturers support this standard, so your vehicle should be compatible with nearly all non-fast charging workplace and public chargers.
Fast charging currently does not have a consistent standard connector. SAE International, an engineering standards-setting organization, has passed a standard for fast charging that adds high-voltage DC power contact pins to the SAE J1772 connector currently used for Level 1 and Level 2. This connector enables use of the same receptacle for all levels of charging, and is available on certain models like the Chevrolet Spark EV. However, other EVs (the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV in particular) use a different type of fast-charge connector called CHAdeMO. Fortunately, an increasing number of fast chargers have outlets for both SAE and CHAdeMO fast charging. Lastly, Tesla’s Supercharger system can only be used by Tesla vehicles and is not compatible with vehicles from any other manufacturer. Tesla vehicles can use CHAdeMO connectors through a vehicle adapter.
Charging your EV at Home
Because residential charging is convenient and inexpensive, most plug-in electric vehicle drivers do more than 80% of their charging at home. Charging in a single-family home, usually in a garage, allows you to take advantage of low, stable residential electricity rates.
The cost to run your car over the course of a year can be less than running an air conditioner.
Charging at a multi-family residential complex, like a condo or apartment, is possible, but can be complex and more similar to public charging.
Cost to Charge at Home
Fuel costs for EVs are lower than for conventional vehicles. Based on the national average of 23 cents/kwh, fully charging an all-electric vehicle with a 100 mile range and depleted battery would only cost about the same as operating an average central air conditioner for six hours. Because plug-in hybrid electric vehicles have smaller batteries, each individual charge costs even less.
General Motors estimates the annual energy use of a Chevy Volt is 2,520 kWh, which is less than required for a typical water heater. In comparison, over the past ten years, U.S. regular conventional retail gasoline prices have fluctuated from below $1.50 to over $4, squeezing annual household budgets by as much as $1,500 per average passenger car. If you charge primarily at night and your utility offers special off-peak rates, your costs may be even lower.
Equipment to Charge at Home
Home charging can use either the relatively simple Level 1 electric vehicle supply equipment (EVSE) or the slightly more complex Level 2 EVSE. Charging with Level 2 EVSE is faster and can be more convenient, but requires special equipment that is more expensive to install than Level 1. For both types of EVSE, you should store the charging cord securely so it is not damaged, check the accessible EVSE parts periodically for wear, and keep the system clean.
You should consult EV manufacturer guidance for information about the required charging equipment and understand the specifications before purchasing equipment and electric services. In general, check with your utility and a trusted electrical contractor—and get cost estimates—before installing EVSE or modifying your electrical system.
Level 1 EVSE
Level 1 EVSE provides charging through a 120 volt (V) AC plug.
Level 1 adds about 2 to 5 miles of range to a vehicle per hour of charging time, making it suitable for plug-in hybrid electric vehicles and depending on your circumstance, even some all-electric vehicles.
Charging with Level 1 EVSE will not require any special equipment besides an outlet, but does require a dedicated branch circuit. Before plugging an EV into any outlet, be sure that the circuit does not supply other appliances such as refrigerators or lights. For the connector, nearly all EVs come with a portable Level 1 EVSE cordset, which has a standard three-prong household plug on one end for the outlet and a standard J1772 connector for the vehicle.
Level 2 EVSE
Level 2 EVSE provides charging through a 240 V AC plug.
Level 2 adds about 10 to 60 miles of range to a vehicle per hour of charging time, making it suitable for all EVs.
Using Level 2 EVSE requires drivers install special charging equipment as well as have a dedicated electrical circuit of 20 to 100 amps. Fortunately, most houses already have 240 V service for appliances such as clothes dryers and electric ranges. The price of Level 2 residential EVSE varies, but typically ranges from $500 to $2,000 before installation and state or utility incentives.
For homes with adequate electrical service, installation is usually relatively inexpensive. However, it can be substantial if an electrical service upgrade is required. As EVSE installations must comply with local, state, and national codes and regulations, be sure to work with a licensed electrical contractor. In addition to the National Fire Code, your local building, fire, environmental, and electrical inspecting and permitting authorities may also require permits. In many areas, installers must submit a site installation plan to the permitting authority for approval before installation. Your contractor should know the relevant codes and standards and should check with the local planning department before installing EVSE. In general, check with your utility and a trusted electrical contractor—and get cost estimates—before installing EVSE or modifying your electrical system.
The safety risks of installing and using home EVSE are very low, similar to those associated with other large appliances like clothes dryers. Residential EVSE are generally installed in garages, but homeowners can also purchase outdoor-rated EVSE built to withstand weather and other types of stresses. EVSE cords are built to withstand some abuse—even being run over by a car—and the power flow through the cord is cut off when the vehicle is not charging.
The EVSE wall unit should be protected from contact with the vehicle, such as with a wheel-stop. The EVSE wall unit also should be positioned to minimize the hazard of tripping over the power cord. In general, this means keeping the cord out of walking areas and positioning the wall unit as close as possible to the vehicle’s electrical inlet. Another option is to install an overhead support that keeps the cord off the floor.
There is a variety of equipment for Level 2 EVSE available, ranging from simple models with standard safety features and status lights to more advanced products have features with enhanced displays, charging timers, smartphone connections, and keypads. There are a number of options available for residential charging infrastructure, and your EV manufacturer should be able to recommend which Level 2 EVSE might work best with your vehicle. No matter which product you choose, your EVSE should be certified for EV use by a nationally recognized testing laboratory (such as Underwriters Laboratory).
Charging in Multi-Unit Dwellings
EV charging stations for multi-unit dwellings, such as condos or apartments, provide owners with a unique way to help attract and retain residents and foster an environmentally sustainable community. However, both building owners and EV drivers face unique considerations when installing charging stations, ranging from parking and electrical service access to billing and legal concerns. Learn how to work with your building owner to install a station through the California Plug-in Electric Vehicle Collaborative’s Guide for Residents of Multi-Unit Dwellings. The Alternative Fuels Data Center also has best practices and case studies to share with owners of multi-unit dwellings.
Maximizing Electric Cars’ Range
The efficiency and all-electric driving range of plug-in electric vehicles varies based on a number of factors, including driver habits, driving conditions, and temperature, such as hot or cold weather. For an all-electric vehicle, reduced range may mean the driver will need to charge more often, depending on daily miles traveled. For plug-in hybrid electric vehicles, the internal combustion engine will turn on more quickly, increasing fuel cost and emissions.
All-Electric Range and Very Hot or Cold Weather
Extreme weather – very hot or very cold – impacts range in EVs.
The additional heating or cooling needed for passenger comfort requires more energy than more moderate temperatures would. Cold batteries also have greater resistance to charigng and do not hold a charge as well.
Based on nearly 10 million miles of data collected through the EV Project, researchers at Idaho National Laboratory found that variations in weather can affect the range of plug-in electric vehicles by more than 25%. They found all-electric Nissan Leafs driven in Chicago in the winter had 26% lower ranges (60 miles compared to 81) than those driven in Seattle in the fall. Similarly, they found that plug-in hybrid electric Chevrolet Volts driven in Chicago in the winter had 29% lower ranges (30 miles compared to 42) than those driven in Chicago in the spring.
EV manufacturers and research supported by the Department of Energy are improving temperature-control technology to compensate for some of these issues. For instance, several models are now available with battery heaters or other technology to heat the battery and improve efficiency in cold climates.
Maximizing All-Electric Range
There are many things drivers can do to improve the efficiency of thier vehicles, as described on FuelEconomy.gov. Here are some specific tips for EVs:
- Use accessories wisely: Accessories such as heating, air conditioning, and entertainment systems affect fuel economy on all vehicles, but can have a greater effect on EVs. However, using seat warmers instead of the cabin heater can save energy and extend range.
- Use the economy mode: Many EVs come with an “economy mode” or similar feature that maximizes the vehicle’s fuel economy. In some vehicles, this mode can be activated by simply pressing a button. The economy mode may limit other aspects of the vehicle’s performance, such as acceleration rate, to save fuel.
- Plan ahead before driving: Pre-heating or pre-cooling the cabin of an all-electric or plug-in hybrid electric vehicle while it is still plugged in can extend its electric range, especially in extreme weather.
- Avoid hard braking and anticipate braking: This allows the vehicle’s regenerative braking system to recover energy from the vehicle’s forward motion and store it as electricity. Hard braking causes the vehicle to use its conventional friction brakes, which do not recover energy.
- Observe the speed limit: Efficiency usually decreases rapidly at speeds above 50 mph.
Other ways to improve efficiency include avoiding hauling cargo on your roof, removing excess weight, and keeping your tires properly inflated.
The article was recreated from the resource that no longer exist (is online):
Energy.gov – “EV Benefits”